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The Secret Lives of RVing Lesbians

A solo traveler finds companionship — and Jell-O wrestling — while camping with other lesbians.

Three years ago, when I bought the 20-year-old American Cruiser camper van I call Squeaky, I imagined visits to National Parks, driving through redwood forests, soaking in hot springs, and camping by idyllic lakes and rivers. I never thought I’d be sitting in a hot, dusty field with 200 other lesbians cheering on pairs of practically naked Jell-O wrestlers, stickily throwing each other around, all for the prize of a Home Depot gift card.

But this summer there we were, letting out all of our pent-up post-lockdown energy, whooping it up, and having a grand time at the eighth PDX Lesbian Network Campout at Milo McIver State Park near Portland, Oregon.

 

A solo traveler finds companionship — and Jell-O wrestling — while camping with other lesbians.

 

After missing a year due to lockdowns, organizer Danielle del Prado was able to commandeer the entire state park campground for a long weekend of lesbian festivities. Each of the campsites hosted an event; activities as diverse as a river float, cornhole tournament, rock painting, kayaking, wine tasting, open mic, and, of course, Jell-O wrestling. Each night was capped off with a dance. The dozen or so families with kids had their own activities. Spending the weekend with 250 other lesbians was a great change of pace from my usual solo travels.

When the pandemic halted my 9-month cross-country plans last year, I found a solution closer to home. I volunteered for two months at Oregon State Parks as a campground host, which turned out to be a job I fell in love with. I spent a month each at two different beautiful Oregon state parks, assisting campers, selling firewood, and picking up trash. I explored and hiked on my days off. It was a great way to meet new people, stay active and be relatively safe outdoors and social distanced. Besides, sticking around Oregon really isn’t a consolation prize. I live in a beautiful place.

I love traveling solo (with my dog Olive), but as an extrovert, I have to find ways to connect. Over the winter, I found my community on various Facebook groups, but due to travel restrictions, hadn’t met many of them. In May 2021, fully vaccinated and with a campground host assignment near Bend, I invited some gals from a lesbian camping group to come out for a weekend.

 

A solo traveler finds companionship — and Jell-O wrestling — while camping with other lesbians.

 

Thirteen RSVPed yes. I joked with my friend that it was half sporty dykes and half radical queers, the perfect intersection of my own identity. It had been so long since I’d gathered with other lesbians, I was smiling the whole weekend, despite the cold, rain, and even a bit of snow. We drank whiskey, visited around campfires, hiked, and played cornhole. There was immediately the sense of comfort and ease that being around kindred community brings.

I’ve met a lot of other lesbians on the road — after all, we do love camping. Usually, we just share a knowing nod or quick hello. One day when I noticed some Instagram-famous queers were camping not too far from me, I got bold: I invited myself to their campsite. We awkwardly chatted and I gave them a copy of my book (Queer: The Ultimate LGBT Guide for Teens).

 

A solo traveler finds companionship — and Jell-O wrestling — while camping with other lesbians.

 

Still, one of my favorite encounters was when an older straight couple invited me to their campfire to meet their daughter and her wife. I loved that they traveled and camped with their adult daughter, that they adored her and her wife, and that they recognized me as a fellow queer who might have something in common with them. We did and now we follow along on each other’s travels on social media, planning to maybe meet up again someday down the road.

Kathy Belge is a writer, author of two books and a champion for solo women travel. Follow along with her adventures at TravelsWithSqueaky.com or check out her new podcast Travels with Squeaky for solo women Rvers, campers, and vanlifers.

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